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Levinson Axelrod Partner Testifies Before State Senate About “Essential Workers” Protection Bill

Levinson Axelrod, P.A. Partner Richard Marcolus recently testified before the New Jersey Senate Labor Committee in support of legislation that would include “Essential Workers” among front line workers who receive additional protections when filing workers’ compensation claims.

Rich’s testimony, delivered before the Senate Labor Committee, concerns Senate Bill 2380, a measure that would create an easier path to benefits for Essential Workers through key legislative changes. That includes:

  • Creating a presumption that an Essential Worker’s contraction of COVID-19 is work-related, which would alleviate the burden to prove a connection between their condition and their work – a difficult task given the nature of the disease.
  • Requiring that any time an essential employee is incapacitated or unable to perform their duties as a result of contracting or being exposed to COVID-19 be considered on-duty time. Known as “Emergency Hazard Health Duty,” this time would also include any necessary hospitalization and period of quarantine / self-quarantine due to the coronavirus.

Under the bill, an “Essential Employee” would include:

  • Workers considered essential to state or federally declared emergency response or recovery operations; or
  • Public or private workers whose duties and responsibilities are essential to public health, safety, and welfare.

As written, the measure could extend protections to men and women throughout the state who brave considerable risks to their personal health and safety, and that of their loved ones’, by providing essential services to our communities during the pandemic. This includes health care workers, public safety workers, first responders, volunteer police and firefighters, and more.

A Carpenter by trade, Rich knows what it means to sacrifice one’s health and well-being on the job. As stated in his testimony before the Senate Labor Committee:

“My name is Rich Marcolus and I am a workers’ compensation lawyer with Levinson Axelrod, where I have practiced for 35 years. I am the Co-Chair of COSH, (Council on Safety and Health), an organization of lawyers, doctors, and unions that was founded to protect our compensation system. I am also a 43-year union member of Carpenters and Joiners Local 253.

I urge this committee to pass this bill. Without this important bill, so many workers will be denied compensation benefits. This bill covers workers who are risking their lives and their families’ lives as they perform jobs that keep the rest of us safe and healthy.

This bill is critical because without the presumption of compensability so many workers will be denied benefits. This week, two workers called me because they contracted the virus. Both interact with the public and their employers have been defined as “Essential” by the Governor's Executive Orders. Yet both were told and given documents to apply for either State Disability and or Unemployment.

Both of these systems are already overburdened with claims.

The passage of this bill will send a message to employers and workers that we are going to deliver adequate, prompt compensation benefits to those workers who risk their safety so we can remain safe. I urge the passage of this bill and want to thank Senator Sweeney for his leadership and sponsorship of this bill.”

A Passion for Protecting Workers’ Rights

As an experienced attorney and New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Workers’ Compensation Expert, Richard Marcolus has fought tirelessly for workers and their families following work-related injuries and illnesses. His passion for advocating on clients’ behalves in the courtroom is matched only by his continued efforts to support legislation that benefits workers, and ensure those who put their lives on the line to perform necessary jobs are treated fairly should they suffer harm.

In addition to his latest efforts supporting SB 2380, Rich was a key driving force behind the much-anticipated passing of the Canzanella Act, a law which protects First Responders who seek benefits after suffering certain conditions as a result of being exposed to harmful substances in the course of their work. He has advocated for many other worker protections over the course of his career.

COVID-19 & Occupational Exposure: Discuss Your Legal Options

Our team at Levinson Axelrod, P.A. stands in solidarity with Partner Marcolus, and hopes New Jersey lawmakers will pass this important piece of legislation.

As a firm that represents workers and families in a range of workers’ compensation matters, we are also available to discuss potential claims involving workers who contract COVID-19 and want to learn more about their options for seeking benefits due to workplace exposure.

Call or contact us online to speak with an attorney about your potential case. Our firm serves clients across New Jersey, and is happy to offer FREE and confidential consultations via phone, e-mail, or video conferencing.

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